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Review of The Slithering Monsoon by Rattlesnake Games

I’m not sure if it is just me, but somehow it feels like there has been a greater diversity among types of published adventure material with this current edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather than just the plain old “adventure module” of past editions, it feels like 4E spawned a number of new “species” of pre-made adventure types, giving Dungeon Masters a wider range of choices for what they...

I’m not sure if it is just me, but somehow it feels like there has been a greater diversity among types of published adventure material with this current edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather than just the plain old “adventure module” of past editions, it feels like 4E spawned a number of new “species” of pre-made adventure types, giving Dungeon Masters a wider range of choices for what they wanted to use with their gaming group.

So far, we’ve had adventure modules, adventure settings, campaign arcs, campaign settings, side treks, mini-campaigns, and one-shot encounters! Wow. Did I miss anything?

Recently, Rattlesnake Games has added a new type of pre-made adventure product to the list, offering a short, quick adventure that can be back-filled to make a full-blown mini-campaign, or used by itself as a giant-sized side trek. Introducing what Rattlesnake Games calls a Byte-Sized Adventure with their first 4E module debut – The Slithering Monsoon!

The Slithering Monsoon –A Byte Sized Adventure

  • Designer: Rick Martin
  • Illustrations: Ralph Grubbs
  • Publisher: Rattlesnake Games
  • Year: 2012
  • Media: PDF
  • Price: 99 cents (Available now from RPGNow.com)
The Slithering Monsoon (A Byte-Sized Adventure) is a mini-adventure for use with D&D 4E. The adventure is designed for five 10th Level heroes, and consists of four encounters which can be used as either a side trek adventure, or can be developed to be the climax of a multi-adventure mini-campaign of a Dungeon Masters own devising. The adventure comes complete with monster stat blocks for the encounters, maps, read-aloud text, and complete descriptions.

Production Quality

The production quality of The Slithering Monsoon is fair, having some good writing and plot development, but a “no-frills” publishing quality. The text is well-presented and easy to follow, and the stat-blocks follow the MM3 revised format in the encounters. However, the PDF lacks both bookmarks and a table of contents, which makes it necessary to flip through pages to find the section you need.

The few illustrations (all two of them including the cover) in the “byte-sized” adventure are all line art, but are actually fairly nicely drawn, and make me wish the artist had maybe come up with a couple others to make the adventure more visually pleasing. As far as the maps for the adventure go, they are completely retro style, using the graph paper on a cyan blue background format. Despite their simplicity, they do their job illustrating the set-up and placement of the encounters, and the overall layout of the dungeon.

The Adventure

The byte-sized adventure is pretty straight forward in storyline: stop Zehir cultists from unleashing a deadly and powerful yuan-ti king from his imprisonment in some sort of binding, stasis spell-like, ritual. The title of the adventure, The Slithering Monsoon, refers to the nickname of this bound horror, and the author provides the encounters within the temple where the yuan-ti king is held, and the adventure segment to stop the cultist. Obviously, a DM could create a much more detailed adventure and back-story, leading the heroes to the final encounter against Zehir followers, but it could just as easily be something that a band of explorers stumbles across in their travels, arriving at an auspicious moment to thwart the snake worshippers.

While the adventure seems pretty straightforward, there are a few technical issues which should be pointed out here. First off, the adventure map and plot is extremely linear, which makes this not so much a “dungeon delve” as it is a “subway ride” through several encounter “stations” to a final showdown. And while the encounters are fully described, including “read aloud” text, there are many areas of the temple, such as intervening passageways and doorways, which are not described. I was constantly wondering about those areas, which are marked with a designator like “A3”, but have no description in the PDF about them. Are they trapped? Are the doors on either end locked or barred, and what are they made of? I guess that is up to the DM to decide, which gives the adventure an unfinished feel to it.

As far as encounters go, they appear pretty nicely designed for a 10th Level party, but I did notice some problems with the monster stat blocks. While the monsters had been re-skinned called “venomblooded” and “bound”, some of the attack and damage expressions were unchanged from earlier editions of the Monster Manuals, and did not reflect the July 2010 Updated Errata which came out with Monster Manual 3. Some of the attacks are simply under-powered for a Level 10 hero to face, and this will certainly effect the overall feel of the threat level of the adventure.

And the use of the new “venomblooded” tag seemed a bit haphazard, as it seemed to at first be used on monsters that inflicted poison damage or even an ongoing poison effect. However, a couple of monsters were tagged as “venomblooded”, but had no poison attributes whatsoever, which begged the question about what exactly “venomblooded” meant. Personally, I think the author could have showcased monsters that were built using a modification of the Snaketongue Cultist Theme from DMG2, perhaps making his own version of the theme to represent this particular Zehir cult. It would have definitely added an interesting flair to the monsters, and made them more cohesive in nature than just being snakes or snake-like creatures.

On the positive side of things, I’ll admit that I did like the old school style white-graph-paper- on-cyan look. This allows a DM to use whatever dungeon tiles they have on hand to lay out the maps for play, and the author included enough notes on cover points like pillars and statues, as well as starting positions of monsters, to make encounter set up quick and easy. I also liked that the author included an old school “dungeon delve” style riddle room, which the heroes are required to solve at the halfway point in the adventure. The riddle follows a classic logic puzzle format, but with altered details to make it “fantasy” style. Failure to guess correctly causes severe damage from a trap, but they heroes can only guess wrong three times before they are left with only one remaining –and correct – choice.

The author did a good job in creating a sense of urgency in the adventure, by making sure the characters are aware a ritual is going on which will unleash a REALLY BAD MONSTER (a Yuan-Ti Anathema) on the world. This fixes the whole “15-minute workday” problem, forcing the characters to focus roll through the four encounters and the riddle trap in order to avoid having a Level 21 Elite come forth and annihilate them!

Overall Score: 3.2 out of 5.0

Conclusions

Overall, The Slithering Monsoon is not a bad first adventure module from Rattlesnake Games, but there were clearly some points that need polish and improvement. The story is good, and I came up with about a half a dozen ways I could develop it into a larger adventure if I wanted to, which makes it flexible enough for busy DMs to use it in a number of ways in their campaigns. While some of the re-skinned monsters had cool attacks, the changes to most were basic and cosmetic, and the stat block errors made some of these baddies not bad enough for a Level 10 Party to worry too much about. But the price of the adventure makes it a real bargain, which makes it worth at least considering, even if you have to do some corrections here or there to use it in a campaign.

So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 2.75
  • - Design: 2.5 (Good writing, but very basic publishing format, no frills here)
  • - Illustrations: 3.0 (Decent cover and inner illustration, needed more, retro maps kinda cool)
  • Content: 3.25
  • - Crunch: 3.0 (Good encounter design, but monster stat blocks have pre-MM3 errors)
  • - Fluff: 3.5 (A decent story and enough material to expand into a larger venue)
  • Value: 3.5 (Its very cheap to buy, but it’s also just four encounters long)
Author’s Note: This author received a complimentary copy of this product in PDF format for use in writing this review.
 

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